Saturday, October 27, 2007

taking a break from the term "Christian"

OK, so it's not what you think. But, I've been thinking a lot lately about what is typically associated with the word Christian. Quite often it's pretty negative . . . and not something I want to be associated with.
I find it interesting that we self-identify with the word Christian . . . most of the time without actually thinking about what it means. I think that it has lost some of its original meaning because of many people who identify themselves as Christians without that actually being true. These people don't live according to what the Bible says . . . they may even claim not to believe it, but identify themselves as Christians because their paretns were or because they go to church sometimes.
I also find it interesting that the early church didn't self-identify themselves as Christians . . . it was a name that was given to them by those who didn't believe. Acts 11:26 says: "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." The word Christian, here, meaning "Christ-ones". This wasn't a label that they gave themselves, but it was a name that the culture around the early church gave to them.
Up to this point in the history of the early church, Christians had often been called disciples . . . which simply means "learner" or "student". And this is what we are called to be as "Christians". People who are students of God, who are learning and growing to become more like Christ. When the disciples of the early church were first called Christians, people still understood what that meant. The culture around them was recognizing them as people who were learning from and modeling their lives after Jesus Christ. The term Christian still had a meaning that I think is largely missing today.
For these reasons, I'm not a huge fan of the "label" Christian. I don't think it adequtely describes to our world what exactly we are. It has become nothing more than a religious belief, when it should be a relationship where we learn from Christ and live the way He calls us to.
For the time being at least, as my title suggests, I'm choosing to take a break from using this term to self-identify or to talk about other followers of Christ. I would rather define or explain what disciple means than use a term that has lost much of its original intent to identify the way that I live my life. From this point for a while I will refer to myself and to other Christians as followers or disciples of Christ.
While "follower" may not adequately describe things either, I believe it does a better job than "Christian" does right now. And I feel that the words follower and disciple do probably the best job that can be done in describing what we have devoted our lives to.

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